Opening remarks by Foreign Minister of the Republic of Armenia Ara Aivazian at a meeting with journalists following the negotiations with Foreign Minister of the Russian Federation Sergey Lavrov07 December, 2020
Dear Sergey Lavrov,
Ladies and Gentlemen!
First of all, I would like to thank the Russian side, represented by the Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, for the warm welcome and constructive, meaningful dialogue.
Notably my first visit as Minister of Foreign Affairs of Armenia is being paid to Moscow, which clearly speaks of the exceptional nature of relations between Armenia and Russia, moreover, I am sure that today's negotiations will give a new impetus for further strengthening and developing our allied relations.
Sergey Lavrov and I have already had the opportunity to meet in Yerevan, we have also constantly been in touch on various issues, and today's visit is a logical continuation of the already established tradition of relations between our countries and Foreign Ministries.
Today we have discussed in detail a wide range of international and regional issues, primarily, of course, the issue of regional peace and security. Naturally, the discussion mainly focused on the situation developed in our region over the past months and in the light of the joint statement adopted on November 9 of this year.
Russia played a key role in the cessation of the Turkish-Azerbaijani aggression unleashed against the people of Artsakh which lasted for more than six weeks. On November 9, due to the personal mediation of President Vladimir Putin, it became possible to agree upon and adopt a joint trilateral statement setting the establishment of a ceasefire on the ground and the deployment of a Russian peacekeeping mission in Nagorno-Karabakh.
The presence of the Russian peacekeepers creates conditions for the restoration of calm and stability in the region and serves as a guarantee against provocations from Azerbaijan, its regional sponsor and foreign terrorist fighters recruited by them.
The cessation of hostilities provides an opportunity for the resumption of discussions, within the framework of the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairmanship, on the restoration of the peace process.
We also discussed a wide range of issues regarding the extremely difficult humanitarian situation in Nagorno-Karabakh resulting from the deliberate targeting and methodical shelling of peaceful settlements and vital civilian infrastructure by the Azerbaijani armed forces. We are grateful for your prompt and effective participation in resolving humanitarian issues. In this context, we consider it important to engage specialized international organizations to solve humanitarian issues on the ground.
In the context of humanitarian issues, the priority is the immediate and unconditional exchange of the prisoners of war and captives, as well as the return of the bodies of those killed without delay. We expressed our readiness to conduct an exchange on the principle of “all for all” and expect that the Azerbaijani side will not pose impediments towards this process.
At the same time, the Azerbaijani side does not stop the inhuman treatment of the Armenian prisoners of war and civilians held as hostages. The Armenian prisoners of war, civilians who did not have enough time to leave their houses, are severely tortured and beheaded alive, in exactly the same way as ISIS treated hostages in the Middle East.
The manifestations of vandalism and desecration towards the Armenian monuments and religious sites - churches and monasteries in Artsakh are outrageous.
During this aggression and the following period we and the international community have witnessed a new wave of manifestations of Armenophobic policy, which has been inflicted in the Azerbaijani society by the military-political leadership of Baku for decades.
In fact, Turkey, being the main provocateur and sponsor of the Azerbaijani aggression against the people of Artsakh, continues to pursue its devastating policy in the region. This makes the international community use all possible levers to force Turkey to refrain from any action that could further escalate tensions. Turkey should withdraw its armed forces and its sponsored terrorist groups from the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone and the South Caucasus in general. There are no clear signals about the withdrawal of foreign terrorist fighters so far. On the contrary, there is reliable information about Azerbaijan's plans to expand the geography of the spread of terrorist fighters and mercenaries and resettle them in the occupied areas of Artsakh.
During today’s negotiations I once again stressed the imperative of restoring the rights of the 150000 people of Artsakh and implementation of those rights in their historical homeland.
With regards to the efforts towards the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, I would like to emphasize very clearly that the issue of self-determination of the people of Artsakh is at the core of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Armenia stands and will continue to stand for the recognition of the right to self-determination and the security of the people of Artsakh.
The lasting and sustainable settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict should be achieved through the negotiations under the auspices of the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs, which is the only format enjoying international mandate for the Nagorno-Karabakh peace process.
I once again express my gratitude for the warm welcome, Mr Sergey Lavrov. Thank You.
Question: The agreements on Nagorno-Karabakh reached on November 9 are obviously only a temporary step towards the settlement of the Karabakh conflict. Are there more substantive discussions planned on this issue between the Foreign Ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan or even at a higher level in the near future, and when can such meetings take place? Thank you.
Ara Aivazian: I would not say that the trilateral statement of November 9 is temporary; it is a core statement in terms of the cessation of hostilities and bloodshed, there are issues on the return of refugees and also other issues, which outline the main parameters for the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
But, of course, the main priority issues are part of the comprehensive negotiations, which will begin immediately after the stabilization of the situation in the conflict zone, and I share Sergey Lavrov‘s opinion that there is some cautious optimism in this regard. I think we should do anything possible not to allow the recurrence of last month’ tragedy. Naturally, we also stressed the importance of the joint statement adopted by the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs in the framework of the OSCE Ministerial Council, which testifies the international support for the further and final settlement of the issue within this format. In the near future a visit of the Co-Chairs to the region and launching of consultations between the Foreign Ministers and the Co-Chairs are expected, as a result of which, I believe, it is possible to prepare the ground for a new negotiation process in the future.
Question: Mr. Ayvazyan, Foreign Minister of Turkey Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu stated at the meeting of the OSCE Ministerial Council that the agreements reached on Nagorno Karabakh can contribute to the normalization of relations between Yerevan and Ankara, and that the agreement is a real opportunity to achieve peace in three decades.
Ara Aivazian: I am not going to comment on the words of the Foreign Minister of Turkey. I will mention Turkey's actions since Armenia's independence, starting with the 100-year-old tragedy of the Armenian Genocide. I would like to remind that most of the Armenians both in the Republic of Armenia and in the Diaspora, are the descendants of the people who survived the first genocide of the 20th century. We have a historical memory; we have a historical memory.
From the very first days of Armenia's independence, the Republic of Armenia and its authorities expressed a sincere desire to establish friendly relations with our neighbor Turkey without preconditions. In response, since 1993, over these thirty years, we have witnessed the ongoing blockade, the refusal to establish diplomatic relations, and the sharply aggressive approach towards Armenia. If you remember, in 2008-2009 the process of the so-called “football diplomacy”, initiated by the Armenian side to normalize our relations with the Republic of Turkey, began, ended with the signing of the protocols in Zurich, which eventually remained on paper; Turkey again refused to fulfill its obligations using various political pretexts.
Recently, on April 24, when Armenia and the Armenians around the world paid tribute to the memory of the innocent victims of the first genocide in the Ottoman Empire, the Turkish President issued a provocative statement justifying the annihilation of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire, which once again confirms that Ankara is not ready to normalize relations. As for the recent period, after the escalation between Armenia and Azerbaijan on the southern border in July, Turkey began to openly threaten the Republic of Armenia at the level of the President, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Minister of Defense, until the aggression against Artsakh on September 27 this year.
I have already mentioned in my speech that in my opinion Turkey played a key role in provoking the war against Artsakh, directly threatened the Republic of Armenia and played a very negative role during this period; imported foreign terrorist fighters, took a direct participation in hostilities, even assuming the command of the military operations, disrupted the ceasefire agreements for three times. If you recall, on November 9 after long discussions the first such document was agreed, then the second, and the third was agreed in the United States. Each time these agreements were neutralized because of Ankara's negative role.
We all share the vision of a "new South Caucasus." We want to live in a stable, friendly atmosphere with our neighbors, but to achieve that, given the small part I have listed, Ankara must first gain the trust it has lost all this time. And we will follow what measures Ankara will take to restore confidence. Only then will we assess how sincere his words are about "a new era for the South Caucasus".